Men's basketball: New Ohio coach says he’s there for long haul

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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ATHENS, Ohio — While holding up a green and white game jersey for photographers yesterday, new Ohio men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips kidded that he usually plays pickup games without a shirt.

The number on the front signified that Phillips is the 18th coach in the history of the program.

Phillips reiterated that he intends to stick around for a long time.

“I’d be pleased not to let the 19th go out for two to three decades,” athletic director Jim Schaus said.

Phillips, 41, is well aware that he’s the third coach Schaus has hired in six years. John Groce left after four seasons for Illinois in 2012 and Jim Christian after two seasons for Boston College on Thursday.

“I want my daughter to graduate from high school here without question,” Phillips said of 10-year-old Jordan. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — and I’m not joking about it — that No. 18 is going to stay 18 for as long as I can win. I’m at a point in my life where I want to be here.”

Phillips was an assistant for three seasons and the coach for seven at North Dakota State before Schaus swept him off his feet during a 24-hour period on Friday and Saturday at the Final Four in north Texas.

The five-year contract calls for an average salary of $550,000. Christian’s salary was $425,000.

Should Phillips get another offer that he can’t refuse, the buyout begins at $950,000.

Eleven family members, including wife Nicole and three children, were in the back of the room during Phillips’ news conference.

Phillips said he left North Dakota State for the opportunity to recruit from a wider base, coach in the stable Mid-American Conference and live in a perfect college town.

Junior point guard Stevie Taylor of Gahanna, who is working on his third coach, is excited.

“Just talking to Coach for 10 minutes, I really want to walk the walk for him,” Taylor said.

“I’m going to get after it. The feeling that man gives me is something else.”

Phillips said the players shouldn’t worry about him leaving.

“Losing your head coach stinks,” he said. “There’s nothing good about it. I’m not going to be their first coach in college, but I will be their last. That’s a fact.

“Let’s move this thing forward. Let’s see where this can go. I want to be here — period. Just watch me stay.”


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